A king is crowned

(Food Network)

By Abby Rhodes
August 15, 2011

Forget apples. Jeff Mauro ’00 advises everyone to eat a sandwich a day.

“From top to bottom, every sandwich is a journey of flavors and textures we should all treat ourselves to at least once a day,” Mauro said.

Mauro doesn’t just enjoy eating sandwiches; he’s an expert sandwich maker – a professional chef who will now share his culinary passion and unique comedic flavor on his own Food Network cooking show, “Sandwich King.”

Topping fourteen other finalists in the finale of “Food Network Star,” Mauro’s dream came true Aug. 14 in the most competitive – and most highly rated – season of “FNS” yet.

For ten weeks contestants lived together, cooked together, and competed against each other for the favor of world-famous chefs and Food Network executives. Unlike other reality cooking programs, serving a delectable dish wasn’t enough to take the top spot on “FNS” – contestants had to serve up engaging, likable personalities and comfort in front of the camera.

“Jeff comes across as approachable, accessible, and has a generosity of spirit,” said Food Network General Manager Bob Tuschman, who was also a show judge. “He’s found a way to make humor organic, about family and observations.”

Mauro has been fine-tuning his performance skills since his days at Bradley, when he studied radio and television by day and took the stage at night. “I was always in some way a performer, but Bradley gave me opportunities to hone my craft and gain self-esteem in a supportive environment,” Mauro said.

Shortly after graduation, Mauro headed to Hollywood where he hoped his energetic blend of performance comedy and kitchen savvy would wow the right television executive. As cable networks courted, but never contracted him, Mauro went to culinary school and graduated at the top of his class. Then it was back to Chicago, where he momentarily tucked the TV dream away and became head chef at the nation’s largest independent mortgage firm.

“I’m an expert on sandwiches because I’ve probably made more sandwiches than anyone on the planet. I performed for 150 people a day as a corporate chef and I loved it, loved interacting with all the people; but to have my own show – that was always the dream,” Mauro said.

When he auditioned and was cast on “FNS,” he knew it would likely be his one and only chance to see if America would eat up what he loved dishing out. “My goal was never to become a reality star, but this was my big opportunity to see if this meld of comedy and cooking could really play.”

Jeff’s easy-going demeanor and levity during tense moments enamored the show’s judges and contestants alike. “I love his gregarious personality, his point of view. I think he’s super interesting,” said Food Network host and show judge Giada De Laurentiis during the finale.

“Sandwich King” will premiere on Food Network Sunday, Aug. 21.